Suspect in Daniels' slaying was sole beneficiary of his estate

Monday, April 15, 2013 | 7:12 p.m. CDT; updated 11:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 15, 2013

COLUMBIA — Cellphone records shattered the alibi the suspect gave police when he was first questioned in connection with the shooting death of Brian Daniels.

The probable cause statement also revealed that the suspect, James Thompson, 23, was given power of attorney and made the sole beneficiary of Daniels' estate — including his home, valued at $368,000 on the website of the Boone County Assessors. It remained unclear whether the documents were forged.

Thompson, of 3501 E. New Haven Road, was arrested Saturday and charged with the first-degree murder of Daniels, 46, a man Thompson said was his romantic partner.

A second man, Christopher J. Hurt, 24, was charged with felony hindering prosecution and possession of cocaine in connection with the investigation.

Police said more charges could follow.

Although the autopsy report has not yet been released by the Boone County Medical Examiner's Office, the probable cause statement said Daniels died from three gunshot wounds. The specific time of his death is uncertain.

Daniels' body was discovered after officers responded at 7 p.m. Wednesday to a call from Thompson at Daniels' house at 2416 Cimarron Drive in south Columbia. Police found the back door forced open and Daniels dead inside.

Police interviewed Thompson at the house that night. Based on the interview, police didn't consider him a suspect, Sgt. Joe Bernhard said.

Thompson told detectives he'd been in a romantic relationship with Daniels for three years. He also said he last saw Daniels at about 6 p.m. Tuesday before leaving Columbia to visit a man named Glenn Anderson in St. Charles.

In the probable cause statement, police said Anderson, when contacted, backed up Thompson's story, but the story fell apart after police tracked Thompson's movements through his cellphone records. Police said they found that Thompson's phone, which he said he had with him in St. Charles, was in the Columbia area until 12:20 a.m. April 10 — the morning of the day Daniels' body was found. 

When officers drove to St. Charles and spoke to Anderson, he told them Thompson had asked him to lie about his whereabouts, the statement said.

Anderson said the truth was that he went to bed just before 11:30 p.m. and woke up the next morning to find Thompson asleep on his couch, the statement said.

During his interview with police, Anderson called Thompson and told him he'd spoken to Columbia detectives, according to the statement. It added that Thompson asked Anderson if the detectives had asked him if Thompson owned guns. But information about how Daniels had died had not yet been released. Bernhard would not say whether police had listened in on that conversation.

Officers then contacted Thompson, who was in a vehicle with his sister at the time. After searching the vehicle, police found a gun clip missing three bullets, according to the statement.

The statement also said Anderson also told police he'd bought a notary public stamp in order to notarize documents pertaining to Daniels' will and giving power of attorney to Thompson. Anderson said Thompson had asked him to become a notary so he could notarize the documents.

The documents made Thompson the sole beneficiary of  Daniels' estate once the forms were signed and notarized on Feb. 10, according to Anderson. Thompson's mother, Jacqueline Miller, and friend, Christopher Hurt, signed the forms as witnesses.

Hurt, who was also arrested in the investigation, told detectives that when he spoke to Thompson on the phone April 9, Thompson told him he was in St. Louis. Cellphone records show that no such conversation took place, according to the statement. After serving a search warrant of Hurt's home, cocaine was found in a safe, though the statement doesn't indicate how much.

An online search of Joint Communications' records show that police were dispatched to Daniels' home 15 times in the past year, including several times for a burglar alarm. Daniels had reported several times that Thompson had come into the house and stolen items, including gold pieces — most recently on April 4, according to court records.

Investigators found that Thompson pawned gold items four times and was paid more than $18,000 by a pawn shop. The pawn shop owner's description of the items matched the description of the items reported stolen.

When the thefts were reported, Thompson told police he was Daniels' caretaker. He didn't say he was in a romantic relationship with Daniels.

When an alarm went off at the home on March 1, officers spoke with Daniels and Thompson and learned the two had been in a fight in which Daniels had been cut on his forehead. 

Daniels told police he was going to change the locks on his home because Thompson had a key, and he did so on April 5. 

Thompson was being held Monday on a cash bond of $2 million. His preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 30 in the 13th Circuit of Boone County.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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